After more than three years, HBO is finally dipping its toes back into Westeros this weekend. And if you ever had trouble following Game of Thrones, well, House of the Dragon won’t be much more straightforward. The new series, a prequel set almost 200 years before Thrones, is a “family drama” that centers on a civil war for the Iron Throne, which means it will feature plenty of Targaryens, more than a dozen dragons, and a family tree that looks more like a family tumbleweed.
Think you’ll need help keeping track of all that? Welcome to our House of the Dragon cheat sheet. This handy resource, culled largely from George R.R. Martin’s 2018 Targaryen history, Fire & Blood, should get you up to speed on who is whom, what is what, and where is where around the time that Viserys I Targaryen ascends to the Iron Throne in 103 AC (After the Conquest; for reference, Game of Thrones starts in 298 AC). We’ve crafted this guide to be as spoiler-free as possible—if you’ve watched any of the trailers or read any of the pre-premiere press for the show, nothing in here will be new.
We’ll periodically update this document throughout the season as things shift throughout the Seven Kingdoms. Check back when you’re looking for guidance.
The Targaryens are the royal house in Westeros, and this is their golden age. Though there are many siblings, cousins, nieces, nephews, etc. in the time of Viserys’s reign, these are the principal Targaryens that viewers need to know at the beginning of House of the Dragon:
King Jaehaerys I Targaryen: Called the Conciliator or the Old King. Viserys’s grandfather. Jaehaerys reigned for 55 years and was responsible for some of the defining features of the Seven Kingdoms, including the roads that connect the various regions and the set of laws that govern the continent. The kingdom was at peace for virtually the entirety of Jaehaerys’s reign. He outlived all of his children (save for two, one of whom became a Maester and another from whom he was estranged), setting up a succession crisis that was resolved at the Great Council of 101 AC, when the lords of Westeros chose Jaehaerys’s grandson Viserys to be his heir. He dies in 103 AC.
King Viserys I Targaryen: The current king of Westeros; Jaehaerys’s grandson. He was chosen to be Jaehaerys’s heir at the Great Council of 101 AC and ascends the throne in 103 AC upon Jaehaerys’s death. At the time of his ascension, he is the father of Rhaenyra and husband to Aemma Arryn. Viserys is an amiable man who strives to avoid conflict. He rode Balerion the Black Dread until 94 AC, when the dragon died of old age. Now he does not have a mount.
Aemma Arryn: Viserys’s wife and the mother of Rhaenyra. She is a granddaughter of Jaehaerys.
Daemon Targaryen: Viserys’s brother and his assumed heir … until Viserys chooses to name his daughter Rhaenyra as his heir. Daemon is a skilled warrior and a bit of a hothead who does not fit well within the stiff confines of the royal court. He sits on Viserys’s small council before leading the City Watch. He is married to Rhea Royce, the Lady of Runestone. It’s a sensible marriage, but not one that Daemon is very committed to. Daemon’s dragon is Caraxes.
Rhaenyra Targaryen: Viserys’s first-born child by Aemma Arryn, known in her youth as the Realm’s Delight. Viserys names Rhaenyra his heir within a few years of ascending the throne, even though he was chosen to be king in part because he was a man. Rhaenyra rides Syrax. She is a close friend of Alicent Hightower.
Aegon the Conqueror: The founder of the Targaryen dynasty. Aegon the Dragon came over to Westeros roughly a century before Viserys’s ascension to the throne and, with his sister-wives Visenya and Rhaenys, conquered the continent and united the Seven Kingdoms, save for Dorne.
The lords of the Isle of Driftmark. House Velaryon is a Valyrian family like the Targaryens and have similar silver hair. The Velaryons control the strongest navy in the known world, and are not traditionally dragonriders like the Targaryens.
Corlys Velaryon: Called the Sea Snake for his many adventures on the water. He is the head of House Velaryon, the Master of Driftmark, and the husband of Rhaenys Targaryen. He is one of the richest, most powerful, and most ambitious figures in Westeros, and he dreams of seeing one of his children ascend the Iron Throne. He is the father of Laena and Laenor Velaryon.
Rhaenys Targaryen: Viserys’s cousin, known as the Queen Who Never Was. Her father, Aemon Targaryen, was Jaehaerys’s heir for many years until his death, after which Jaehaerys supported his son Baelon as his heir over his granddaughter Rhaenys. She was again passed over for the throne at the Great Council of 101 AC, when the lords of Westeros chose Viserys over both her and her son Laenor, establishing a precedent that the succession must pass through a male line.
Laena Velaryon: Rhaenys’s first and only daughter with Corlys Velaryon. She’s a child when Viserys ascends the throne. Laena rides the legendary dragon Vhagar.
Laenor Velaryon: Rhaenys’s first and only son with Corlys Velaryon, and Laena’s younger brother. He’s a child when Viserys ascends the throne. Laenor rides the dragon Seasmoke. As the only son of Corlys and Rhaenys, it is important for Laenor to find a good match for marriage. But Laenor seems uninterested in women.
Vaemond Velaryon: In the book, Vaemond is Corlys’s nephew. In the show, this relationship has been changed; he’s now Corlys’s younger brother.
A house in the Reach that rules from Oldtown, which was the most populous city in Westeros before King’s Landing overtook it. Though vassals of House Tyrell, the Hightowers are powerful in their own right.
Otto Hightower: An ambitious member of House Hightower who served as hand of the king in the final years of Jaehaerys’s reign, effectively making him the most powerful person in Westeros while the king was ailing. He continues to serve as Viserys’s hand, while his daughter, Alicent, joins him in King’s Landing.
Alicent Hightower: Otto’s daughter, who tended to Jaehaerys when the Old King was bedridden in the final years of his life. Alicent is a close friend of Rhaenyra, but like her father, holds many ambitions.
Hobert Hightower: The head of House Hightower and the older brother of Otto. He is unnamed in Fire & Blood, but has been cast for House of the Dragon.
A house in the Riverlands that controls the massive fortress of Harrenhal. Vassals of the Tullys, the Strongs have a long history of loyalty to the Targaryens extending back to the days of Aegon’s Conquest.
Lyonel Strong: The head of House Strong and the Lord of Harrenhal. He serves in King’s Landing as Viserys’s master of laws.
Harwin “Breakbones” Strong: The son of Lyonel Strong, Breakbones is described as a massive man, the strongest in the Seven Kingdoms. He is a suitor of Rhaenyra Targaryen and a close companion to her.
Larys Strong: Called the Clubfoot because one of his feet was malformed at birth. Though a man of few words, Larys serves on the small council as master of whisperers.
Other Significant Characters
Of course, this show wouldn’t be a worthy successor to Game of Thrones without a healthy cast of supporting characters.
Criston Cole: A knight of the Kingsguard under Viserys who is exceptionally skilled with a morningstar. A close friend and companion of Rhaenyra Targaryen.
Mysaria: Called Lady Misery. A dancer from Lys who is the paramour of Daemon Targaryen, despite the latter’s marriage to Rhea Royce.
Jason Lannister: The head of House Lannister and older twin brother of Tyland. He vies for the hand of Rhaenyra Targaryen.
Tyland Lannister: The younger twin brother of Jason and the master of ships for Viserys. He also seeks Rhaenyra in marriage.
Grand Maester Mellos: The grand maester under Viserys. Viserys highly regards the advice of Mellos, who frequently preaches compromise and peace.
Harrold Westerling: The lord commander of the Kingsguard under Viserys.
Lyman Beesbury: The master of coin for both Jaehaerys and Viserys.
Rhea Royce: The Lady of Runestone, the head of House Royce, and the wife of Daemon Targaryen. Their marriage is not a happy one; Daemon calls her his “bronze bitch” in reference to the bronze armor the Royces wear.
Craghas Drahar: Called Craghas Crabfeeder. A prince admiral from Myr who leads the Triarchy in the War for the Stepstones.
Joffrey Lonmouth: Called the Knight of Kisses. A very close friend and companion of Laenor Velaryon.
Orwyle, Eustace, and Mushroom: The three authors whose accounts constitute the only primary sources from Viserys’s reign and the ensuing civil war, which is known as the Dance of the Dragons. Martin’s Fire & Blood is written in the voice of a Maester Gyldayn, who lived during the time of King Robert Baratheon and was writing a history for the king. As such, there is no definitive basis for the events of House of the Dragon—everything we know comes from sources who had their own biases and blind spots. In some cases, these sources directly contradict one another.
Miguel Sapochnik has said that 17 dragons will appear in House of the Dragon, of which nine will show up in the first season. We don’t yet know which nine will appear, but these are the 10 dragons believed to be alive and mature early in Viserys’s reign (plus one more ancient dragon who will make an appearance, though not in the flesh).
Syrax: A yellow she-dragon mounted by Rhaenyra.
Dreamfyre: A pale-blue-and-silver she-dragon that is roughly 70 years old by the time of Viserys’s ascension to the Throne. Though Dreamfyre has been ridden in the past, she has no rider when Viserys is crowned.
Caraxes: Called the Blood Wyrm. A huge, fierce red dragon ridden in battle by Daemon.
Meleys: Called the Red Queen. A scarlet-and-pink she-dragon ridden by Rhaenys. Once among the swiftest dragons in Westeros, Meleys begins to slow in her old age.
Vermithor: Called the Bronze Fury. A bronze dragon mounted by King Jaehaerys I until his death. Vermithor was nearly 70 years old when Viserys ascended the throne.
Vhagar: A massive, ferocious, bronze-and-green-blue she-dragon that was ridden by Queen Visenya during Aegon’s Conquest. Vhagar is the oldest, largest, and fiercest dragon in Westeros. She is the mount of Laena Velaryon.
Seasmoke: A slender and nimble silver dragon born just a few years before Viserys ascended the throne. Seasmoke is mounted by Laenor Velaryon.
The Cannibal: A wild dragon that lives on Dragonstone and is known to feast on other dragons and their eggs.
Sheepstealer: A wild dragon that lives on Dragonstone and frequently hunts for sheep.
Grey Ghost: A wild dragon that lives on Dragonstone and is rarely spotted.
Balerion the Black Dread: The enormous, pitch-black dragon that Aegon the Conqueror used to bring Westeros to heel. Viserys was the last rider of Balerion, who died of old age in 94 AC. His massive skull now resides in King’s Landing as a symbol of Targaryen power.
Though Westeros remains as sprawling as it was in Game of Thrones, House of the Dragon is expected to have a significantly smaller geographic scope, with most of the action taking place in King’s Landing and neighboring areas. These are the most important places to know.
King’s Landing: The capital of the Seven Kingdoms, located on the eastern coast of the continent. It is a short distance from the islands of Driftmark and Dragonstone, and was the location where Aegon the Conqueror first landed in Westeros as he began his invasion of the continent. King’s Landing is the most populous city in the Seven Kingdoms.
The Red Keep: The castle in King’s Landing that serves as the home of the current ruler of Westeros and the location of the Iron Throne. The Red Keep contains numerous secret passages and underground connections, and no one knows where they all lead. It’s often said that in the Red Keep, “the very walls have ears.”
Maegor’s Holdfast: The fort at the center of the Red Keep, which lies behind massive walls and a dry moat.
The Dragonpit: The massive stone home built for the royal dragons of House Targaryen. The Dragonpit lies on a hill on the opposite side of King’s Landing from the Red Keep. In Game of Thrones, the Dragonpit lies in ruins—but in House of the Dragon it is alive with purpose as not only the holding pen for the many dragons in the city, but a key outpost for the defense of the city. One dragonrider resides at the pit at all times in the event that a dragon needs to be roused quickly for combat.
Flea Bottom: The foul, seedy underbelly of King’s Landing. A hub of lawlessness and filth—but a good place for residents looking for a cheap winesink or a discrete whorehouse.
Blackwater Bay: The body of water that sits around King’s Landing, Dragonstone, and Driftmark.
Dragonstone: The gloomy island home of House Targaryen before Aegon the Conqueror launched his invasion of Westeros and established a new seat (both figuratively and literally) at King’s Landing. It is also where the heir to the current ruler typically resides. Rhaenyra Targaryen is the current Princess of Dragonstone. Centuries later, Daenerys will plan her own invasion here in Season 7 of Game of Thrones.
Driftmark: A fertile island between Dragonstone and King’s Landing. It is the seat of House Velaryon.
High Tide: The castle on Driftmark that was constructed by Corlys Velaryon to serve as the seat of his house. Corlys had grown tired of the damp and musty halls of Castle Driftmark, and constructed High Tide out of magnificent pale stone as a symbol of the power of House Velaryon.
Harrenhal: The largest castle in Westeros, which Aegon the Conqueror melted into a somber pile of stone and metal during his invasion. However, Harrenhal remains an important castle in Westeros, with fertile land surrounding it and a central location just northwest of King’s Landing. House Strong currently holds Harrenhal, which hosted the Great Council of 101 AC. It’s the same dismal castle where Arya will reside (and meet Tywin) in Season 2 of Thrones.
Maidenpool: A town in the Riverlands north of King’s Landing that hosts a tourney in honor of Viserys’s ascension to the Iron Throne in 104 AC. It is ruled by House Mooton.
Oldtown: A large, ancient city that lies on the western shore of Westeros. It is home to the Citadel, the headquarters of the Maesters, as well as the Starry Sept, the seat of the Faith of the Seven. That makes it the center of both knowledge and religion in Westeros. It is also a hub of trade and arguably the wealthiest city in the Seven Kingdoms. Oldtown is ruled by House Hightower.
The Hightower: A massive castle and lighthouse that sits just outside Oldtown and serves as the seat of House Hightower.
Dorne: The southernmost region of Westeros, populated by the Rhoynar, who are distinct from the Andals and First Men that make up most of the citizens of Westeros. Dorne was the only kingdom of Westeros that Aegon the Conqueror failed to bring into his realm, and by the reign of Viserys it remains an independent kingdom. Criston Cole is from an area called the Dornish Marches.
The Free Cities: A group of nine city-states in Essos, the continent east of Westeros. They are important trade partners for Westeros, though are also frequently in conflict with the crown or with each other.
Valyria: A ruined city in Essos that was once the home to the Targaryens and many other dragon-riding families known as dragonlords. Valyria controlled a large empire known as the Valyrian Freehold until the Doom, a mysterious cataclysmic event that wiped out the city and its inhabitants roughly a century before Aegon’s Conquest. The Targaryens escaped the Doom thanks to prophetic dreams that foretold the destruction, and thus they became the only dragon-riding family in the known world.
The Narrow Sea: The sea to the east of Westeros that separates the continent from Essos.
The Stepstones: A series of islands in the Narrow Sea south of King’s Landing that is well positioned to control important shipping lanes between Westeros and Essos, the continent to the east. Daemon Targaryen and Corlys Velaryon travel there early in Viserys’s reign to engage in a war for control of the Stepstones against the alliance of free cities known as the Triarchy.
Objects can be important symbols of power, prestige, or history in Westeros. Here are some of the most important ones.
Blackfyre: The Valyrian steel sword of Aegon the Conqueror that is typically wielded by Targaryen kings. Before the start of the Dance it is in the hands of Viserys I.
Dark Sister: The Valyrian steel sword wielded by Queen Visenya Targaryen during Aegon’s Conquest. King Jaehaerys I gave the sword to Daemon Targaryen, who currently possesses it.
Catspaw Dragonbone Dagger: The dagger that Game of Thrones fans called the catspaw dagger returns in House of the Dragon, as Alicent is clearly seen wielding it in numerous trailers and teasers. This is the dagger that will be used in the attempt on Bran’s life in Season 1 of Thrones, and which Arya ultimately will use to kill the Night King.
The Painted Table: The long table on Dragonstone that is carved to depict the continent of Westeros. It’s where Aegon the Conqueror planned his invasion of the continent, and where Daenerys will do the same in Game of Thrones.
The Iron Throne: The seat of power in Westeros. The throne was forged from the melted blades of Aegon the Conqueror’s enemies, forming a twisted, intimidating seat that does not allow a king to “sit easy.” Some blades are still sharp enough to cut the throne’s occupant—a sign that the king (or queen) may be unprepared to hold power. In House of the Dragon, the Iron Throne will feature an appearance more closely aligned with the way it is described in George R.R. Martin’s novels, with many more blades (maybe even 1,000 of them).
Here are some phrases that viewers will likely hear during the series.
dragon dreams: Prophetic dreams experienced by some Targaryens, including Daenerys and Maester Aemon. It was a prophetic dream of Daenys the Dreamer’s that prompted the Targaryen family to leave Valyria 12 years before the Doom destroyed the city and all the dragonlords. In a departure from the books, Viserys appears to have such dreams, as evidenced by the trailers. But as with all prophecies in Martin’s writing, there is the question of whether the future is actually set in stone, or whether the characters’ own desire to change their future ultimately leads to self-fulfilling (and often self-destructive) behavior.
The City Watch: The standing army of King’s Landing, which is tasked with maintaining order and defending the Iron Throne. Daemon Targaryen commands the Watch shortly after Viserys is crowned king, and he gives the Watch their signature gold cloaks.
Lord of the Tides: The title traditionally given to the head of House Velaryon.
War for the Stepstones: A war fought between Westeros (led by Daemon Targaryen and Corlys Velaryon) and the alliance of free cities known as the Triarchy (led by Craghas Crabfeeder) for control of an important series of islands in the south of the Narrow Sea.
The Great Council of 101 AC: A council of all the lords of Westeros held after the death of Baelon Targaryen, Jaehaerys’s son and heir to the Iron Throne. The council was called to pick a successor for Jaehaerys, who did not attend the council but agreed to abide by any decision made by the lords. The main claimants to the throne were Viserys, Jaehaerys’s grandson through Baelon; Laenor Velaryon, Jaehaerys’s great-grandson through his son Aemon (Baelon’s older brother, who had died years prior); and Jaehaerys’s granddaughter Rhaenys. Despite the influence of Corlys Velaryon, Viserys won the vote by a rumored margin of 20-to-1. Ultimately the council chose Viserys both because he was in his 20s, while Laenor was a child, and because they wanted the throne to pass solely through a male line of descendants. Picking Viserys also ensured that the throne stayed in the hands of a Targaryen, rather than a Velaryon. This council set a precedent for the line of succession in Westeros.
The Prince/Princess of Dragonstone: The title given to the heir apparent of the Iron Throne. The heir also typically resides on Dragonstone and rules over the island.
Kingsguard: The order of knights sworn to protect the king and the royal family. There are typically seven such knights, who are prohibited from inheriting land, holding titles, taking wives, or starting families. They wear white and are commonly called white cloaks.
small council: The group of seven trusted advisers who aid the king.
hand of the king: The king’s second in command, and the only person authorized to make decisions in the king’s name. However, this is not considered a glamorous position. The smallfolk across Westeros say that “the king eats, and the hand takes the shit.”
The Triarchy: An alliance of the Free Cities of Myr, Lys, and Tyrosh, which fight a war against Westerosi forces for control of the Stepstones.
dragonseeds: Bastard children of House Targaryen. Especially common on Dragonstone, where many smallfolk claim that the blood of the dragon runs through their veins. A key question that has not yet been answered in Westeros: Can dragonseeds become dragonriders?